High Profile Federal Defense Counsel

Common Signs of Being Under Federal Investigation

In the complex world of federal law, being under investigation can often go unnoticed until it reaches a critical point. For individuals and businesses alike, early detection of a federal investigation can be pivotal in preparing a robust defense strategy. Candice Fields Law, PC, with its extensive experience in federal white-collar criminal defense, aims to educate and empower clients by highlighting the key signs that may indicate a federal investigation.

Need legal assistance?

Call us at 916-414-8050 24/7 to arrange to speak with a lawyer about your case, or contact us through the website today.

What is a Federal Investigation?

A federal investigation refers to the process by which agencies of the federal government of the United States investigate potential violations of federal law. These investigations can cover a wide range of criminal activities, including but not limited to white-collar crimes, drug trafficking, terrorism, and cybercrime. Here are the key components that define a federal investigation:


Federal Agencies

Signs of Being Under Federal Investigation

Federal investigations are conducted by federal agencies, such as the:

  • FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation)
  • DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration)
  • IRS (Internal Revenue Service) for crimes like tax evasion 
  • and others.

Each agency has jurisdiction over specific types of crimes.

Federal Laws

The investigation pertains to crimes that violate federal laws, which apply nationwide. These are distinct from state laws that are enforced by state authorities.

Complaints and Tips

Investigations often begin with complaints, tips, or intelligence received by federal agencies.

Proactive Investigations

Agencies also initiate investigations proactively, using data analytics, intelligence gathering, and other methods to identify potential criminal activities.


Preliminary Investigation

Agencies conduct a preliminary investigation to determine if a crime has occurred. This phase involves gathering initial evidence, interviewing witnesses, and analyzing data.

Full Investigation

If there’s sufficient evidence, the case moves to a full investigation, involving in-depth evidence collection, surveillance, and possibly search warrants and subpoenas.

Legal Proceedings

Grand Jury

In many cases, a grand jury is convened to review the evidence. They decide whether there’s enough evidence to issue an indictment.


If indicted, the accused is formally charged with a crime and the case proceeds to trial unless a plea agreement is reached.



If there’s substantial evidence, the federal government prosecutes the case in a federal court.

Acquittal or Conviction

The accused may be acquitted or convicted, depending on the trial’s outcome. Convictions can result in penalties, including imprisonment, fines, or other sanctions.

Legal Representation


Individuals or entities under federal investigation often seek legal representation to navigate the complex legal process, protect their rights, and build a defense strategy.

Signs of Being Under Federal Investigation

Being under federal criminal investigation can often be a covert process, with individuals sometimes unaware of the scrutiny until it reaches an advanced stage. Early detection is crucial for preparing an effective defense. Here are expanded signs that you might be under federal investigation, including the receipt of a target letter.

1. Unusual Financial Activities

  • Account Freezes: Sudden freezes or seizures of your bank accounts or unexplained transactions can indicate federal scrutiny, often related to financial crimes or fraud investigations.

2. Increased Surveillance

  • Physical Monitoring: The presence of unfamiliar vehicles or individuals near your home or workplace.
  • Digital Surveillance: Unexplained issues with your phone, email, or online accounts, indicating possible monitoring by federal agencies.

3. Legal Documents

  • Subpoenas: Receiving subpoenas for business records, financial statements, or personal information is a clear sign of an ongoing investigation.
  • Search Warrants: Execution of search warrants at your home, office, or business premises, indicating a formal investigation.

4. Interviews and Interrogations

  • Questioning: Federal agents attempting to interview you, your family, colleagues, or employees. Always seek legal counsel before engaging in any conversations.

5. Target Letter

  • Notification: Receiving a target letter from federal prosecutors informing you that you are the subject of a grand jury investigation. This letter often outlines the specific crimes you are suspected of committing and advises you of your rights.
  • Immediate Action: The receipt of a target letter is a direct indication that you are under investigation and legal representation should be sought immediately to understand the implications and prepare a defense.

6. Grand Jury Subpoenas

  • Witness Testimonies: Learning that colleagues or associates have been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury indicates an ongoing investigation where you might be a subject of interest.

7. Professional and Social Changes

  • Isolation: A sudden change in the behavior of colleagues or business associates, indicating they might have been advised to limit contact due to an ongoing investigation.

8. Public Records and Reporting

  • Media Attention: Media reports or public records requests related to your business or personal affairs can sometimes precede official notification of an investigation.

What To Do If You Suspect You're Under Federal Investigation

Discovering that you might be under federal criminal investigation can be a daunting and stressful experience. However, taking the right steps early can significantly impact the outcome. Here are essential actions to consider if you suspect you're under investigation for federal crimes:

Stay Calm

  • Avoid Panic: Stay calm and composed. Panic can lead to impulsive actions that might complicate the situation.
  • Gather Information: Try to gather as much information as possible about the nature and scope of the investigation without interfering with it.

Seek Legal Counsel

  • Hire a White-Collar Crime Attorney: Hire a skilled federal defense attorney immediately. Choose someone with experience in federal law, such as a federal tax crime lawyer, and specific issues related to your case.
  • Legal Advice: Consult with your white-collar criminal defense lawyer before making any statements or decisions. They will guide you on the best course of action based on the specifics of your case.

Avoid Self-Incrimination

  • Right to Remain Silent: Exercise your right to remain silent if federal law enforcement officials ask you questions. Avoid discussing the case with anyone except your white-collar crime attorney.
  • Avoid Statements: Do not provide any statements or documents to federal law enforcement agents without your attorney’s advice and presence.

Cooperate with the Investigation

  • Follow Legal Advice: Cooperate with the investigation as advised by your criminal defense attorney. They will ensure your rights are protected while complying with legal obligations.
  • Avoid Obstruction: Do not attempt to destroy evidence or obstruct the investigation. It can lead to additional charges.

Gather Documents and Information

  • Documentation: Collect and preserve documents, records, and information that might be relevant to the investigation.
  • Witnesses: Identify potential witnesses who can provide information or testimony beneficial to your defense.

Prepare for Legal Proceedings

  • Defense Strategy: Work closely with your attorney to develop a defense strategy tailored to the specifics of your case.
  • Understand the Process: Familiarize yourself with the federal investigation process, potential charges, and legal proceedings to be well-prepared.

Limit Public Exposure

  • Media and Public Statements: Be cautious with media interactions and public statements. Consult your attorney before addressing any public or media inquiries.
  • Social Media: Consider limiting social media activity related to the investigation to avoid potential complications.

Call Candice Fields Law, PC Today

Being under federal investigation requires immediate and strategic action. Securing experienced legal representation and following their advice is paramount to navigating the complexities of federal law, protecting your rights, and seeking a favorable outcome. Every case is unique, so tailored legal counsel is essential to address the specific circumstances and challenges you face.

Need legal assistance?

Call us at 916-414-8050 24/7 to arrange to speak with a lawyer about your case, or contact us through the website today.


What crimes fall under federal jurisdiction?

Federal crimes include but are not limited to terrorism, white-collar crimes, drug trafficking, cybercrimes, immigration offenses, and violations of civil rights.

What is the role of a grand jury in a federal investigation?

A grand jury reviews the evidence presented by prosecutors to determine whether there is enough to issue an indictment and proceed to trial.

How long does a federal investigation take?

The duration varies widely depending on the complexity of the case, the nature of the alleged crime, and the amount of evidence to be collected and analyzed.

What are the potential outcomes of a federal investigation?

Outcomes can range from the case being dropped due to insufficient evidence, a plea agreement being reached, or the case proceeding to trial, leading to either acquittal or conviction.

How can an attorney help during a federal investigation?

An attorney can provide legal advice, represent you during interactions with federal agents, help protect your rights, gather evidence, prepare a defense strategy, and navigate the complex legal proceedings associated with federal investigations.

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